Sunday, November 27, 2011

La Valentina Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2008

   One of the friendliest and most widely planted grapes in Italy, Montepulciano from the mountainous region of Abruzzo is usually an easy drinking red wine that will pair perfectly with your Bolognese or roast chicken. This example is from La Valentina, one of the most important producers in the zone, whose higher end bottling called "Spelt", usually receives accolades from the top reviewers. It is indeed an attractive wine, with baked cherry, licorice and a stony minerality on the nose. Small wonder, as the vines here live in stony soils at 500 - 1000 ft. in altitude. And although it has wonderful up front dark fruit in the mouth and excellent acidity giving it lift, it finishes with a bit of drying tannins that make me wonder if this bottling is a bit too serious for it's $11.99 price point. It seems that it could benefit from a year or 2 in the bottle. Still, at an everyday price like this, it's definitely worth checking out for yourself. Imported by Dalla Terra, a company with a very nice looking portfolio, this is still a fine example of Abruzzo Montepulciano. Cheers.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Obalo Rioja 2009

   Here's a very fine little Spanish Rioja we tried tonight with some southwest style grilled shrimp that was very tasty. This 100% Tempranillo cuvee featured attractive blackberry and blueberry aromas along with a bit of spiciness. In the mouth it's quite fruity, round and nicely balanced without any trace of heat. It finishes smooth and lightly tannic. It's certainly not old school Rioja by any means and isn't especially complex. But it does make for a fruity, if somewhat simple quaffer that's a perfect weeknight accompaniment to whatever you're cooking....and it only cost me $12.99. One thing I really like about Spanish wines like this is that they are somewhat low-acid (a hot climate trait in general), and so they pair really well with some seafood as well as the standard meat dishes like grilled chicken, burgers or pork chops. Tonight it was great with the grilled shrimp but it would also go well with salmon or tuna, pan seared or grilled. Come to think of it, pizza's in play here as well. Cheers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Palin Carmenere 2009

   One of the great things about studying wine is that there is always something more to learn. According to Wikipedia, the Chilean grape Carmenere was one of the original 6 grapes of Bordeaux even though only 5 of them are what we usually see associated with that region today. And what makes that association even more interesting is that Carmenere has aromatic and flavor similarities to good quality Bordeaux. It's dark in color and puts forth very earthy aromas of plummy fruit and a bell pepper quality often associated with Cabernet Franc, an important Bordeaux grape in St. Emilion and Pomerol. It has a fairly big, fruity palate and finishes with more of those earthy tones that make a wine worth talking about. It finishes smooth with no alcoholic heat. Produced by Geo Wines and imported by one of my favorites, Montecastelli, this $11.99 wine is a great value, and it's organic as well.  So even though I skew old world when it comes to the greatest beverage, there's always great stuff to discover from the new world as well, and the Palin Carmenere is a great example of that. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vacu Vin

For those of you who sometimes don't finish a bottle with dinner, a must have for your kitchen is Vacu Vin. This handy little item allows you to preserve the wine left over for 24 - 48 hours or so. You simply insert the rubber stopper, press down on the stopper with the pump and pump the air out of the bottle. The basic kit gets you a pump and 2 rubber stoppers and you can always buy more stoppers. It's a great low cost way to save what you've left in the bottle for tomorrow, either for drinking or cooking. Cheers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Domaine de Villalin Quincy 2010

Quincy is a small Loire Valley appellation down the road from Sancerre that makes wines from Sauvignon Blanc only. I've mentioned in past posts that Sancerre is without a doubt my favorite Sauvignon Blanc and this version from nearby has a lot of the same qualities for a lower price. Yes the Domaine de Villalin Quincy is just a bit outside my everyday price range at $15.99, but this wine is really tasty. It's got all the grapefruit and lemon zest qualities that you expect from this grape and it has the same chalky minerality that really defines Sauvignon Blanc from this region in general. Imported by one of my favorites, Polaner Selections, this organically produced wine is a delicious selection to have with shellfish, cod or grilled trout. Cheers.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Steak House" Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

One of my biggest pet peeves is Cabernet that doesn't taste like Cabernet. Cabernet Sauvignon, along with it's plummy, black currant like fruit, is supposed to have an herbaceous characteristic. But when the grapes get too ripe and your end product is an everyday Cabernet that is now 14.5% alcohol or above, it ends up tasting more like Zinfandel....all jammy fruit and none of that herbal nuance that is endemic in good Cabernet. You've now ripened the complexity out of the wine. Well the Magnificent Wine Company's "Steak House" Cab from Washington's Columbia Valley was a pleasant surprise when we dove into one this week. It smelled like cab and tasted like cab and that me very happy as good Cabernet, even in the lower price points, is one of the greatest grapes. A project of K Vintners Charles Smith, the "Steak House" Cabernet has plenty of medium-bodied plum and black currant flavor as well as that tell-tale herbal quality. It's a very balanced 13% alcohol and it cost me a very affordable $12.99....and the package is certainly eye-catching and fun. Burgers, steaks and chops are all in play with this tasty wine. Cheers.